Cipolla Rossa of Tropea Calabria is grown in medium, sand-rich loam or in heavy loam rich in clay or lime, in the coastal area or around alluvial rivers and streams, which, despite the gravel, does not restrict the growth and development of the bulbs. Coastal land is ideal for growing early onions for fresh consumption. Inland areas with heavier, clay-rich soil are ideal for growing late onions for storage. Today, as in the past, red onions are grown in family vegetable patches and in large crops, and form part of the rural landscape, local food and dishes, and traditional recipes. The soil and climate conditions in the defined area contribute to the high quality and uniqueness of the product, which is widely acclaimed the world over. The production area covers suitable land in all or part of the municipalities of the Provinces of Cosenza, Catanzaro, and Vibo Valentia in the region of Calabria.
Geographical Protected Indication status for Cipolla Rossa of Tropea Calabria was requested and obtained from the European Community in 2008, both to prevent imitation of the product and ensure the traceability of all stages in the production process because of its unique characteristics and international reputation; and because of its historical and cultural significance in the area concerned — a significance that is still reflected today in farming practices, in cooking, in everyday language, and in folkloric events. Producers and processors of this product and the land parcels on which it is grown are entered in registers managed by the inspection body. The production process is described in the Official Journal of the European Union (2007/C 160/15), and can be summarized as follows:
• The seeds of Cipolla Rossa of Tropea Calabria are sown from August onwards; planting distances vary according to the land and the method used, ranging from 4—20 cm in rows, with 10—22 cm between rows, and a density of between 250,000 and 900,00 plants/
hectare, the latter where there are four bulbs per hole for final radication. One of the regular operations is to provide irrigation, varying according to precipitation levels.
• After the cipollotto bulbs have been harvested, the earth-covered outer layer is removed, the foliage is cut to 40 cm, and the bulbs are then placed in trays in bundles.
• In the case of cipolla da consumo fresco, the outer layer of the bulbs is also removed and foliage is cut if it is longer than 60 cm. The onions are then tied in bundles of 5—8 kg, and placed in trays or crates.
• For cipolla da serbo, the bulbs are placed on the ground in windrows covered with their own foliage, and left for 8—15 days to dry, become more compact and resistant, and develop a bright red color. Once dried, the bulbs may be topped, or the foliage left for plaiting.
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